From the moment humans first saw these red buttes, an enduring memory and sense of place was created. Gone for centuries now are the aboriginal people that hunted bison on the plains around you, and trappers that ventured here seeking beaver, mink, and otter. Gone are the pioneers that struggled to keep their footing as they forded the cold North Platte, and the first prospectors seeking fortune from the land itself. Gone, but all shared the memory of this place.
Here you can be sure of some things, even though they left no mark on the land. Here a child sat near a campfire and heard a wolf howling in the cold, damp air of an early summer night, as she wondered what "the Oregon" would be like. From the ridge across the river an Arapaho warrior saw the first wagons crossing and rode away to share his discovery with the elders of his camp.
Beneath a slate sky blowing snow in October 1856, a party of the faithful buried their dead with what frozen strength they could muster. In 1861 a Pony Express rider hurried his mount westward carrying President Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. A month later, the Express relayed the news of the start of the War Between the States to an anxious California.
Each of them saw much of what you see today during their fleeting visit to this bend in the river.
We are brief visitors ourselves, like the shadows of those who came before us, yet that does not demising the importance of what occurred here. We share their fears of the unknown path ahead, the tears and sufferings, the laughter and hard work that accompany the growth of our nation. Your presence here today affirms the worth of experiences by those long departed from this place.
Can you observe what might have changed and what has not? Take time to reflect and learn - this place belongs to you. Poet Andrei Codrescu once wrote that "history is not obvious." Look closely, now, and you may see it in your imagination.